Charles Cross faces multiple future 1st round picks against Georgia, wins a lot
Seaside Joe 1202: Film against Jordan Davis, Azeez Ojulari, Jermaine Johnson, Quay Walker, and more
A year before they became widely recognized as a contender for “greatest defense in college football history,” the Georgia Bulldogs were still one of the most difficult matchups in the game. Ranking 17th in points allowed and first in yards per carry against (2.4), Georgia’s leader in sacks was future second round pick Azeez Ojulari.
Playing alongside the number one pick in the 2021 draft (Travon Walker had one sack in 2020), as well as first rounders Jermaine Johnson and Jordan Davis, Ojulari’s 9.5 sacks were four more than any of his teammates.
As a member of the SEC, Ojulari had the opportunity to face a pair of top-10 picks at left tackle, first being held to no sacks against Alabama’s Evan Neal on October 17th. Then a month later facing off against the air raid attack at Mississippi State and a matchup against redshirt freshman Charles Cross.
Starting at left tackle in the SEC is both a blessing and a curse. Doing so for Mike Leach and playing the fourth-most pass blocking snaps in the nation is like facing that challenge at an 11 out of 10. But following a redshirt year, Cross stepped up to the challenge immediately as a Week 1 starter vs LSU in 2020 and he ended the year as one of the top offensive tackles in the country.
In year two, Cross went overdrive, allowing only two sacks on 919 pass blocking snaps according to PFF and being named as a fist team All-American at ESPN, as well as first team ALL-SEC for the Coaches and AP voters.
I’ll start sharing some of those blocking reps here at Seaside Joe in the weeks to come, as the Seahawks appear all systems go to start Charles Cross at left tackle from the first day of training camp and to build around him as one of the most integral pieces on the roster towards installing a franchise quarterback in place in 2023.
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Charles Cross vs Azeez Ojulari (2020)
All clips here courtesy of DoABarrowRoll on YouTube
As you can imagine, Cross is found at the top of your screen (#67) on every play. He was often facing Ojulari (#13), but also Jermaine Johnson (#11) at times. When All-22 angles are available, I will share those as much as possible.
Cross went up against Ojulari for the majority of the game, but as you’ll see also had reps against multiple first and second round picks, including in the 2021, 2022, and 2023 drafts.
Cross consistently won his matchups and gave quarterback Will Rogers opportunities to make plays.
Despite going into the game with a 2-4 record and playing on the road, Mississippi State would stay within a score of the other Bulldogs throughout the game. One of the main keys to that success was Charles Cross and he was only making his seventh career start.
Ojulari was typically on the field for passing downs, spelled by Jermaine Johnson for most rushing downs. Cross was adept in this game at both pass blocking and run blocking, but in a Mike Leach offense there are also a ton of screens.
Next, Cross helps Mississippi State take a lead over Georgia in the second quarter by walling off a lane for his running back to score the go-ahead touchdown:
We know that Cross didn’t get many run blocking snaps at Mississippi State. But unlike some others in the air raid offense, like Seattle third round pick Abe Lucas for example, Cross often looked great on those limited plays.
It’s not that Lucas looked horrible, but Cross seems to be able to do it all.
Charles Cross vs Jermaine Johnson (2020)
Jermaine Johnson was often mocked to the Seahawks this year, but Seattle took Cross instead. Johnson went to pick 26 and landed with the New York Jets.
Johnson (#11) didn’t get many wins off of Cross, if any.
Screens? No problem.
This is a great play to close out this section. Cross takes Johnson out of the play entirely, moving him inside as the running back cuts left to find a first down.
Johnson did have a sack in this game, but it came off of the right side in the fourth quarter.
Charles Cross vs Quay Walker (2020)
A bonus here: Linebacker Quay Walker (#25) blitzes at guard Greg Eiland, as Johnson stunts inside, but Cross is able to pick up the blitz and keep Georgia's pass rush in check and this resulted in a huge gain for the Bulldogs.
Walker was the 22nd overall pick this year.
Charles Cross vs Jordan Davis (2020)
Another first round pick, this was the only time I noticed Cross against huge man Jordan Davis. Cross more than holds his own.
Davis is one of the biggest, fastest, most unique defensive tackles to ever play college football. He went 13th overall to the Eagles.
Charles Cross owns Jalen Carter (2020)
Many people consider Jalen Carter to be the top defensive tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Cross really owns him and takes him down on this play.
Charles Cross vs Nolan Smith (2020)
Considered a potential top-15 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Nolan Smith also ended up in a few matchups against Cross in this game. He may have done better in his limited action there than either Johnson or Ojulari. But I wouldn’t say he “won” a whole lot. Just did better.
Cross gets downfield too
Charles Cross vs Ojulari AND Carter (2020)
I’m not an expert, but I think that this is good.
Cross handles both Carter and Ojulari enough to give his quarterback a chance to escape the pocket and throw it away.
Charles Cross: One sack allowed vs Georgia (2020)
Down 31-24 with less than two minutes remaining and facing 4th-and-5, Mississippi State has no choice but to go for it and extend the play as long as possible. This is the scenario that leads to Charles Cross’s only sack allowed (vs Ojulari) during an unbelievably strong performance against an elite defense.
Ojulari is not a flash in the pan pass rusher who only benefited from playing on Geogia’s defensive line: He had eight sacks as a rookie with the Giants. He means business and he got the better of Cross on this one play.
But it is still only one play… on 54 pass blocking snaps. Against Georgia.
This was a phenomenal game by Charles Cross and early warning signs to the NFL that Mississippi State had a top-10 tackle on their roster. Now a top-10 tackle on the Seahawks roster.
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I'm once again trying to not get carried away with excitement. If he performs at a similar level in the NFL, I'll be thrilled.
I recall Rob Staton on your podcast saying he had a 2nd round grade on Cross. I didn't see it at the time and certainly don't after watching these GIFs. But if there's any position of player evaluation I feel inept at, it's OL. It's like watching 2 bears fight for 4 seconds and unless there's a sack, pressure or penalty, it usually looks like a tie or OL win to me. I hope we've stuck gold with our pair of OT picks in this year's draft. We need to keep McCall clean for his rookie season and let him develop!